Friday, August 3, 2012

Things I learned about middle school today...

Technically this was supposed to be the last Buccaneer Blogfest post. I was supposed to discuss all the wonderful benefits I enjoyed through participating. And I think I've been pointing all the benefits out all along. I've found a TON of great writers to follow, read a berjillion interesting posts about writing, and met a lot of wonderful, interesting people. Hopefully all of that has been conveyed in every single Buccaneer post I've made over the last four weeks. It has been a fantastic experience for me, all around.

So now to the off-topic Crazy Ranting:

I realized around dinner time tonight that I learned something important today. There's a huge difference between sheltering your children from specific harm, and sheltering them from the entire world without any explanation or reason why. I can't even begin to express my dismay at the latter attitude.

I know not everyone has kids, but everyone who is ever exposed to kids in any way, or writes YA or MG (or even children's picture books) might understand how frustrating this is for the kids in question.

I completely understand the drive to protect our kids from the realities of the cold, cruel world as long as possible. It's not necessarily healthy to cover half the world with a black cloth and blindly pretend all the bad things don't even exist, though.

Case in point. Swearing.

By middle school, most kids have heard all the bad words in the box. No matter how hard we try to prevent them from hearing all the *!%& words, there will always be a kid or two who heard their older sibling or a frustrated parent exclaim them once or twice. That kid will be sure to spread the language like wildfire. Forget middle school, because I think my daughter heard most of them by the end of second grade. I don't really think there's much point in keeping my 12-year-old from watching a movie or tv show because a few "bad words" are used. But I know parents who do this.

Telling a child a word is bad, and then preventing them from ever hearing it while they are in our presence, seems counterproductive to me. Sure some words mean bad things, but I prefer to teach my child WHY they are bad, rather than issue a confusing blanket ban on certain words. Does this make sense to anyone else? I think the difference is an important one.

I would never want to limit my daughter's experience of life. There is a HUGE (read: gaping black chasm) difference between saying a word is altogether bad and preventing exposure to it with all my might, and teaching my daughter to THINK when she hears a bad word. I think this is a critical thinking skill as much as anything else. She does not swear, but will sometimes say a word that causes a couple of select friends to cringe and tattle to the closest adult that she cussed. Really? At 12?

I know it's not a polite thing to talk about, but since when does the word "fart" fall into the "dreaded-four-letter-word" category? Or "crap?" Or a dozen others that have recently sent a few of her friends into dramatic paroxysms?

Shouldn't we be arming our kids with the reasoning behind the specific uses of words that are bad? Some of my friends have even banned the use of the word "stupid" entirely. I taught my daughter that it's one thing to call the coffee table stupid when you stub your toe on it, or your cell phone stupid when it drops your call. It's another thing entirely to call someONE stupid. She would never do that.

I also don't stop her from listening to music with bad words in it (heck, some of my favorite songs are off albums with parental warning labels on them, and she's been listening to them since she was born). I don't stop her from watching movies with bad words, or violence, or scary things like ghosts, vampires, and demons. Strangely enough, some of the kids whose parents have blanket-banned all these things are the ones with the worst case of the jitters when thrown into a new situation. New situations roll off my kid's back like water off a duck.

I think it comes down to not simply blindfolding our kids. There is bad stuff in the world. They deserve to know this. I'd rather have all this explained gently and lovingly by her parents than forced upon her in the wilds of middle school playgrounds by a bully who wants to use his or her special new knowledge to frighten or shock. Something tells me that the "kid explanation" of the horrors of life won't be quite so reassuring as the parental explanation. And there is ALWAYS an age-appropriate explanation that's ALWAYS better than just pretending the bad thing doesn't exist at all.

I want my daughter to trust me. If I dismiss her questions, if I don't try my best to explain scary things in a way she can understand and take some comfort in, then what will happen when she is older and in a real-life scary situation? Will she trust me with the important things in her life later if I don't put a little trust in her now? I don't want to take that risk. I tell her all the time, if she wants the truth, Mom and Dad are the source. She knows we will never lie to her only to make her feel better. We'll do our best to make her feel better, but we only dispense truth around here.

Thanks to everyone who made it all the way through my sermon. I've been thinking about all this for a while now. Seeing as how I don't seem to have scarred my kid for life yet, I'm pretty sure she'd agree with it.


  1. Thanks! I know this is really off-topic for this blog, but sometimes I just gotta say something, somewhere!

  2. It sounds like you're an awesome mom! It does irritate me when people try to shield their kids from everything. My mom didn't do that when I was growing up and I'm glad for it.


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